By RON PRESTON
Following their dramatic come-from-behind victory over McPherson in the semifinals of the Class 4A Sub-State Basketball tournament Thursday night, the Abilene Cowboys booted the No. 1 seed Hesston Swathers in a dominating fashion winning, 70-33, Saturday night.
“We had a group of guys that wanted to win very badly tonight and came out relaxed and focused, they weren’t as nervous as they were Thursday night against McPherson,” said a happy and relieved Cowboy Head Coach Terry Taylor following the game.
Coach Taylor had talked to his team following Thursday’s 59-55 win over McPherson about keeping the pedal to the metal when you get a team down, don’t let up and play for all four quarters.
They listened and took it to heart.
“Tonight we played for four quarters. That’s the first time all year that we played with that intensity for four quarters. Give our seniors credit, they were our leaders tonight,” said Taylor.
The Cowboys took it to the Swathers early in the first quarter with consecutive buckets from Keil Kelly, Matthew Barlow and Andy Wilson within less than a minute of each other to put the Cowboys in front to stay with a 6-0 run.
Hesston answered with a trey by Tyler McCartney at the 5:20 mark for their first points of the game following a Hesston time out.
Wilson came right back for the Cowboys with a tip in offensive rebound and then followed that up with one of his two treys of the game to double up Hesston at 12-6 with just over a minute to play in the quarter.
The Cowboys used that intensity that coach Taylor had talked about and Kaynan Anderson hit at trey from the left baseline corner at the 1:23 mark and then he dished off to Jacob Harms for an inside bucket as time was running out in the first to make the score 17-6, Cowboys.
The second quarter started just as the first had with the Cowboys scoring quickly and often.
Sophomore Tanner Hoekman would make a traditional three-point play with less than a minute off the clock.
Harms followed shortly with an inside offensive rebound and put-back basket and Wilson followed with a jumper at the 6:24 mark for a 24-8 Cowboy lead.
Hesston called a time out and Ryan Schadler scored their 10th point at the 5:32 mark in the half.
The Cowboys responded quickly again with a Marcus Gonzales dish to Harms inside for an easy two points and Wilson followed with another trey to take a 29-11 lead.
Wilson added a jumper and then stole the ball on the next possession for an easy layup to take a 20 point Cowboy lead, 33-13, with 3:13 left to play in the second quarter.
Following another Hesston time out and then consequent turnover, Hoekman made a fast break layup off a Barlow assist.
Barlow ended the quarter with a trey from the top of the arc as time ran out and the Cowboys in control 38-13 at half.
“When you make some shots early in the game, your confidence goes up and it involved everybody, it wasn’t just Andy Wilson, we had Matt Barlow making three’s, Keil Kelly scoring inside, Jake scoring, Tanner Hoekman coming in, it was everybody, just name them all,” commented coach Taylor.
The second half was just like the first for the Cowboys as they again scored early and often and the bench got into the action as well.
Barlow hit two treys, Wilson hit a jumper and a pair of free throws to end his scoring for the night. Kelly added a pair of inside buckets and Harms had four free throws and an inside shot, all in the third quarter.
Jesse Patrick drove the baseline hard to the bucket and was fouled hard by Hesston. Patrick was able to make his first of two free throws, but was forced to leave the game between free throws due to injury. Harms made the second shot and the Cowboys led 60-24 at the end of three.
The Abilene bench played the majority of the last quarter as the starters were given a thunderous standing ovation when they were allowed to rest the remainder of the game.
Senior Trevor Witt hit a well-timed two-point jam from a Wilson assist to begin the Cowboy scoring to start the final quarter.
Hoekman had another fast break layup from a Wilson assist to go along with Harms inside shot before his departure.
Jesse Goodwin and Zack Beriberi would each add buckets with Goodwin’s coming as time ran out and the Cowboys would advance to the State Tournament with a 70-33 thrashing of the Swathes.
“You know, I think Hesston was nervous tonight coming into the game. They appeared to be nervous, they were tight and it is not a good time to be nervous in the sub-state finals, you bury yourself early and you just won’t recover,” said coach Taylor.
“We didn’t allow them to recover. It’s the best performance we had all year,” he said.
Hesston ended their season with a fine 20-3 record.
“Hopefully we stay healthy, last year we went over there (State Tournament) and Andy Wilson with mono and that was a real tough deal. We are pretty healthy right now,” added coach Taylor.
“We are going to try and improve on things we didn’t do well tonight and watch some game film and then get ready to face Independence in the state tournament,” concluded coach Taylor.
Abilene improves to 19-4 and heads to the state tournament at the Bicentennial Center in Salina next Wednesday for first round action. The Cowboys will be the 4th seed team and play the fifth seeded Independence Bulldogs (18-5) on Wednesday at 8:15 p.m.
Abilene 70, Hesston 33
Abilene (19-4) 17 21 22 10-70
Hesston (20-3) 6 9 9 9 -33
Abilene: Barlow 12, Wilson 20, Anderson 3, Hoekman 7, Kelly 6, Patrick 1, Goodwin 2, Barbieri 2, Harms 13, Witt 4.
Hesston: Gehrer 2, Raleigh 3, McCartney 10, Schadler 13, McKinney 5.